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The best in the U.S. square off for a shot to compete for World glory.

One of the biggest freestyle wrestling events of the year, the 2015 World Team Trials, gets underway this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, with a bevy of the nation's most talented wrestlers facing off to earn spots on the U.S. team heading to the World Championships this fall in Las Vegas.  Well, actually, the Junior World Team Trials are going on today, with wrestlers competing to earn spots on the U.S. team going to the Junior World Championships later this summer in Brazil.  Iowa has been well-represented at the junior level in the past -- Thomas Gilman won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships last year, but unfortunately he's aged out of the competition and can't compete this year.

This year the only current Iowa wrestler competing at the Junior World Championships is redshirt freshman heavyweight Sam Stoll, who's enjoyed success in the Greco-Roman style for a while.  He won a bronze medal in 2013 but missed a chance to improve on that medal last year when he lost to Adam Coon at the Junior World Team Trials.  Stoll missed an earlier chance to make the U.S. team at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas in May because that event occurred too close to finals at the University of Iowa, during a period in which Iowa athletes are barred from competing by university rules.   Because he was a former world medalist and because of his absence in May was University-imposed, Stoll was granted a special wrestle-off against the winner at the U.S. Open, Washington's Tate Orndorff.  That was the plan, anyway.

Ah, the two sweetest words in the English language: default!  Stoll will never have an easier win in his career.  Still, congrats to him for making the U.S. team and best of luck to him at the Junior World Championships in July  -- bring home another medal for the Hawkeyes, Sam!

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The senior level of the World Team Trials is where the real action is, though, with ton of tantalizing match-ups to look forward to as America's best square off for a handful of coveted spots.  Iowa is well-represented here, with six total wrestlers competing for spots at five different weight classes.  The headliners are Brent Metcalf, a multi-time World Team member, and Tony Ramos, a World Team member last year, but Matt McDonough, Dan Dennis, Derek St. John, and Phil Keddy are also carrying the banner for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club at this event.

The format of the event involves a one-day challenge tournament at each weight, followed by a best-of-three finals to determine the U.S. representative at each weight.  One competitor for each of the best-of-three finals is set at each weight -- it's the U.S. Open champion at that weight (except where there were extenuating circumstances, which we'll discuss below).  That's a pretty significant advantage, since that wrestler will be well-rested and facing an opponent who had to win several matches in the challenge tournament earlier in the day just to get to the best-of-three finals. Metcalf and Ramos both won their respective weights at the U.S. Open last month, so they'll enjoy the benefit of getting an automatic bye into the best-of-three finals this weekend.


57 KG (125.5 LBS)

BEST-OF-THREE FINALS QUALIFER: Tony Ramos (2015 U.S. Open champion)

Nick Simmons (2015 U.S. Open -- 3rd place)
Joe Colon (2015 U.S. Open -- 4th place)
Matt McDonough (2015 U.S. Open -- 5th place)
Bradley Pataky (2015 Northeast Senior Regionals champion)
Frank Perrelli (2015 Northern Plains Senior Regionals champion)
Tyler Graff (2015 Northern Plains Senior Regionals champion)
Angel Escobedo (wildcard)

There's a strong Iowa flavor to this weight: Ramos and McDonough, of course, are former Iowa standouts, with six All-America finishes and three national titles between them.  Joe Colon was a star at UNI and Angel Escobedo wrestles for the Cyclone Wrestling Club now.  Simmons and Escobedo are former World Team members.  There's a chance that we could finally get the match-up that's fascinated Iowa fans for years: Ramos vs McDonough.  They've wrestled countless times in the Iowa practice room, but they've never squared off in public.  Will we see it tonight with a spot on the World team on the line?  Maybe.

As noted above, by virtue of his U.S. Open triumph, Ramos gets a bye into the best-of-three finals tonight.  McDonough will need to emerge from the challenger bracket.  He has a match with Perelli to start things off, with the winner facing either Colon or Pataky.  Colon and McDonough had a high-scoring match at the U.S. Open, won by Colon.

70 KG (154 LBS)

BEST-OF-THREE FINALS QUALIFIER: Nick Marable (2015 U.S. Open champion)

Dustin Schlatter (2015 U.S. Open -- 2nd place)
James Green (2015 U.S. Open -- 3rd place)
Kevin LeValley (2015 U.S. Open -- 4th place)
Derek St. John (2015 U.S. Open -- 5th place)
Nazar Kulchytskyy (2015 Northeast Senior Regionals champion)
Adam Hall (2015 Northern Plains Senior Regionals champion)
Moza Fay (wildcard)

70 KG is one of two weights contested here that are not contested at the Olympics (61 KG is the other weight; they wrestle tomorrow), so there's a little extra juice for these competitors: unless they can compete at a different weight (and most of them really can't do so effectively), the World Championships is the best they can do.  There's some added intrigue at this weight this weekend, too, because Nick Marable, the U.S. Open champion isn't available to wrestle.  The exact circumstances are unclear -- I've heard injury and I've heard that he missed weight -- but the end result is the same: he won't be competing in Madison.  I'm not entirely sure what that means for the best-of-three finals, frankly.  I guess we'll find out.

St. John, a four-time All-American and former national champion, is the Iowa representative here, although he has an all-Iowa match-up in the first round, taking on former UNI wrestler Moza Fay.  If DSJ can win that match, he'll get a second-round match-up with Schlatter, a former Minnesota wrestler.  A familiar foe, Nebraska's James Green, lurks on the bottom half of the bracket.  DSJ seems to be acclimating to freestyle more and more, but he's a definite underdog in this bracket.  Schlatter has been very good at this weight for a while and he looks like the man to beat this weekend.

86 KG (189 LBS)

BEST-OF-THREE FINALS QUALIFIER: Jake Herbert (2015 U.S. Open champion)

Keith Gavin (2015 U.S. Open -- 2nd place)
Ed Ruth (2015 U.S. Open -- 3rd place)
Deron Winn (2015 U.S. Open -- 4th place)
Jon Reader (2015 U.S. Open -- 5th place)
Richard Perry (2015 Northeast Senior Regionals champion)
Phil Keddy (2015 Northern Plains Senior Regionals champion)
Clayton Foster (wildcard)
Chris Perry (wildcard)

There's an Iowa flavor at this weight, too, with former Hawkeye Phil Keddy, former Cyclone Jon Reader, and current Cyclone Wrestling Club wrestler Deron Winn.  They have a tall order making noise at this weight, though.  Former Northwestern wrestler Herbert took this weight at the U.S. Open, beating former Pitt wrestler Keith Gavin.  Former Penn State superstar Ed Ruth is lurking out there, too.  Keddy, in fact, has the dubious distinction of facing Ruth in the first round today -- nothing like getting thrown right into the fire, I guess.  If he wins that match, he'll face either Winn or Reader in the second round.

125 KG (275 LBS)

BEST-OF-THREE FINALS QUALIFIER: Tervel Dlagnev (2014 World bronze medalist)

Zach Rey (2015 U.S. Open -- 2nd place)
Dom Bradley (2015 U.S. Open -- 3rd place)
Nick Gwiazdowski (2015 U.S. Open -- 4th place)
Tyrell Fortune (2015 U.S. Open -- 5th place)
Connor Medbery (2015 Northeast Senior Regionals champion)
Adam Coon (wildcard)

As a World bronze medalist, Dlagnev didn't need to wrestle at the U.S. Open last month in order to try and win a title there and earn a spot in the best-of-three finals this weekend.  But he wrestled anyway -- and won the title, giving him that spot in the best-of-three finals. This weight features some current NCAA standouts, including two-time NCAA champion Gwiazdowski and Michigan standout Coon as well as Wisconsin's Medbery.  Dlagnev has been the man for the U.S. for several years at this weight, though, and if he's healthy, it's hard to see anyone getting past him yet.

The wrestling action goes on all day, with live streaming coverage from Flowrestling ($). I'll try to keep things updated in the comments as well.